ACS Webinar: Resources for National Chemistry Week

ACS recently developed a web seminar that took place September 15, 2016 on the NSTA Learning Center. The presenters were Erica Jacobsen, a chemical education consultant who develops materials for the American Chemical Society and Rachel Murillo, teacher of forensic science and anatomy/physiology at McBride High School in Long Beach, California.Cover Solving Mystery

This web seminar is in support of this years celebration of National Chemistry Week (NCW) celebration and its theme of Solving Mysteries Through Chemistry. NCW is an annual event that connects American Chemical Society (ACS) members with their community, schools, and others to share the importance of chemistry in everyday life.

The co-presenters shared resources useful for NCW, for integrating forensics into classroom curriculum, and for informal presentations to share science. ChemClub advisors will find ready-to-use demonstrations, lab investigations, videos, background information, and more. Although the resources presented focused on the middle school and high school levels, many can be adapted to earlier grade levels.

View the web seminar at the NSTA webinar archive site.To view the presentation slides from the web seminar and related resources, visit the NSTA resource collection.

Celebrating National Chemistry Week

lab-molesNational Chemistry Week is always an excellent chance to celebrate chemistry and help demonstrate to students and others the relevance of chemistry in our everyday lives.

This year’s theme for NCW is Solving Mysteries Through Chemistry, and I am particularly excited about the opportunities this presents for teaching some fundamental concepts about how we do science. Crime shows that feature forensic science are very popular on television right now. This helps ensure interest on the part of students to learn some of the basics of how chemistry is used to solve mysteries.

The answer to how does chemistry help solve a mystery is very simple. It is through the application of scientific inquiry.

Continue reading “Celebrating National Chemistry Week”

Ottawa Township High School ChemClub National Chemistry Week Activities

This popular toy was accidentally discovered by engineer James Wright while working at General Electric during World War II. He was trying to find a substitute for natural rubber that was in short supply. Interestingly the patent for this item is still in dispute. What is the name of this toy?

A. Slime
B. Silly Putty
C. Play Doh
D. Flubber

The question above (the answer is B, by the way) was one of those asked during a trivia contest on a local radio station twice a day every day from Monday, October 21, through Friday, October 25, to celebrate National Chemistry Week (NCW). Members of the Ottawa Township High School (OTHS) ChemClub wrote 12 multiple-choice trivia questions, and the morning show host, Jay LeSeure, picked which ones he would use each day. The contest was so popular that the station lifted their policy of only winning once every 30 days because there were so many callers each day. Contest prizes were copies of the ChemClub calendar, which has the OTHS club pictured on the cover, along with pictures from our outreach programs shown on the May and July pages; the current issue of ChemMatters; and a gift certificate for a local restaurant. A big thank you to Marta Gmurczyk at ACS for supplying the calendars and ChemMatters and Rick Koshko, the news director at WCMY 1430 AM.


We did an additional activity during NCW, on Mole Day. For our ChemClub meeting, two members made a periodic table of cupcakes 118 mini cupcakes, each decorated with the symbol of an element. They organized them into the periodic table before we safely consumed them. Please don’t try that with real elements! I even ate the plutonium myself, even though I was warned it smelled funny (Pu). In addition, we had molasses cookies and guacamole.

We have had a very exciting start to the year and look forward to taking our show for elementary schools on the road during second semester. Recently we also received the Ambassador of Chemistry award from the ACS Office of Public Affairs for bringing chemistry to the public.

Celebrating NCW 2013 with a BANG! Bristol ChemClub Kickoff

I KatieHuntheaded to Bristol High School in Bristol, PA, to kickoff their 2013-14 ACS ChemClub with (and I mean this literally) a bang! This was my first chance to test my skill at “improvising” a chemistry presentation.

The room was packed with over 30 eager high school students, including ChemClub president, J. Crump and vice-president, S. Willis. They told me that ChemClub is by far the favorite after-school club at their school. The excitement was for the spectacular chemisty demonstration known as the Gummi Bear Terminator. Their club advisor, chemistry teacher William “Bill” Smith, is all about safety. So goggles were donned by all. In addition, the demo was setup in a hood. The students were awed by the amount of energy released from a simple Gummi Bear treat.


What’s in a theme?
Bristol NCWThe reason for my visit was to help celebrate National Chemistry Week (NCW). The theme of NCW 2013 was “Energy Now and Forever”. This theme focused on the sustainable role of chemistry in everything from energy conservation to energy generation. My ChemClub talk started with discussing cost-effective home energy improvements such as insulation, air sealing (sealing cracks and gaps), and cool roofs (solar reflective, white roof coatings) and continued on to rooftop innovations such as the Dow POWERHOUSE™ solar shingle. This last innovation strives to create a net-zero building envelope, in other words, to create a home or building that produces 100% of it’s own energy. How cool is that!! We also talked about Philadelphia’s effort to become the Greenest City in America, with a PLAN called GreenWorks Philadelphia, and programs like the RetroFIT Philly: Coolest Block Contest, which gives row home owners a chance to win energy-saving cool roof, air sealing and insulation upgrades for their entire block.

Improv Works:  the audience was engaged!
I thoroughly enjoyed spending an afternoon of “improv” with Bill Smith and his wonderful Bristol HS ChemClub students! It was my first chance to put my “Alan Alda Improv Training” to work.  No slides, just a few props, including a copy of Chemical & Engineering News (Jan. 1, 2007) and some cool-roof coated tennis balls!   I’m loving being an official “ACS Expert”!

Additional Reference:
Cool Roofs

Energize Your Classroom for National Chemistry Week!

Open a bottle of water today? You’re almost ready to start exploring this year’s American Chemical Society (ACS) National Chemistry Week (NCW) theme: “Energy—Now and Forever!”

Here’s the rest of the shopping list:

  • Two metal thumbtacks
  • 9-volt battery
  • Epsom salts
  • Scissors
  • Marker

Let’s prep…

  • Take the lid off the water bottle. Turn it over so the top of the lid touches the two contacts of the 9-volt battery. Center the lid over the two contacts. Use a marker to make two dots on the inside of the lid, one over the center of each contact.
  • Place the lid on a hard surface with the top of the lid facing up. Push a thumbtack into the top of the lid directly over one of the dots. Push a second thumbtack over the second dot. The two should not touch.
  • Using a scissors, cut off the top half of the bottle, so that it looks like a funnel. Screw on the lid.

You’re ready to go!

  • Fill the bottom half of the water bottle half full of water. Add a teaspoon of Epsom salt. Swirl to stir.
  • Pour the solution into the top half of the bottle (hold so the lid faces down).
  • Do you see any evidence of a reaction occurring?
  • Place the two thumbtacks so each tack touches one of the contacts on the 9-volt battery. Is there any evidence of a reaction occurring?

To consider…

What’s going on? What’s the purpose of the battery? The Epsom salt?

This activity is a shortened version of a demo that you’ll find as part of the website, scheduled to launch October 21, 2013, to celebrate the NCW energy theme. As stated by Adam Boyd, who led the development of this collection of energy resources, “…this marks the first foray into completely free online teaching resources for high school chemistry teachers from ACS.” You’ll find demos, labs, videos, and more, all specially designed for the high school classroom.

Need more things to try for NCW? Don’t miss the ChemClub October Activity of the Month web update—it’s filled with energy resources. What are you planning?

Wishing you a great, chemistry-filled week!